Real mountains, lovely scenery, mostly quiet roads.
If you listed the most attractive features of Scotland, then tried to squeeze them all on to one medium size island you'd end up with Arran. The island is cut in half by the Highland Boundary Fault, a geological division which makes the north rugged and hilly, whereas the south is more gentle and lower lying. Arran within a small area has many aspects of the beauty of Scotland as a whole, from high peaks inviting hill walkers and climbers to peaceful sandy bays with palm trees growing in the warm climate of The Gulf Stream. Wildlife includes deer, pheasant, otter and eagle frequently seen in the hills. There are over 100 species of birds. There are colonies of seals near coastal caves, trails and pathways to mysterious Bronze Age Stone Circles, plus a number of museums and of course Brodick Castle. The name Brodick comes from the Norse words, meaning broad bay. Arran means peaked island in Gaelic.
Brodick Castle: This has been occupied by a stronghold of some kind since the fifth century, when the kingdom of Dalriada was founded by the Irish. In 1503 the castle and Arran was given by James IV to his cousin, Lord Hamilton. Parts of the present castle date from the 1588 during the ownership of the 2nd Earl of Arran who was the guardian and regent of Queen Mary. The castle was occupied by Cromwellian troops after the first Duke was executed during the Civil War in 1648 and the second died in battle just three years later. Brodick Castle eventually passed into the hands of Mary, Duchess of Montrose who revitalised the gardens. Since her death in 1957 it has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Inside are paintings, works of art and furniture from. One of the rooms is known as Bruce's Room but it is unlikely that Robert the Bruce actually stayed in it. The gardens which have lots of rhododendrons are well worth walking round, the castle of course has a tea room (no admission charge for tea room).
Lochranza: This village by the sea on the northern tip of Arran is surrounded by hills. There is the ruin of a 14th century castle, a former hunting lodge of the Scottish Kings, a golf course, campsite, hotel, gallery and post office. A ferry takes you to Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula on the mainland opposite (part of the National Cycle Network). A distillery opened in 1995 - look out for the copper pagodas. Guided tours daily between 10am and 6pm. Gift shop. Restaurant open all day. Evening meals served from 7pm - 10pm (closed Monday evenings) - booking advisable.
For ferry times visit www.calmac.co.uk
You can cut some of the hilly coast road by using The Ross to get to Lamlash, but this climbs to 290m; the coast road is the prettier of the two road routes. There is a tea room at Lagg and hotels providing food near Kilmory and Kildonan. The one at Kildonan, which is on a loop off the main road, has a view of the rocky islet of Pladda. Another option is to bike the forest trails to Whiting Bay. You pass Glenashdale Falls which you should look at. Access to the trails is from a signposted track leading north-east, one kilometre east of Kilmory. If you are starting from Whiting Bay follow the Glenashdale Falls sign by the bowling green.
Going round the coast you enter Whiting Bay which has tea rooms, B&Bs, hotels and a youth hostel. The coast road between Whiting Bay and Brodick is not particularly quiet and is fairly hilly. Going north again you enter Lamlash with Holy Island opposite. Holy Island is occupied by Buddhists but it was called Holy Island before this; it derives it's name from Saint Molaise who lived on the island in times past. There is a ferry, and tours of the Buddhist monastery, so allow an hour or two if you decide to visit it. Out of Lamlash it's another stiff climb to get to Brodick and complete the circle.